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Emptying the Pews: Life after Conservative Christianity (in person event & live-streaming)

October 23, 2022 @ 3:00 PM - 5:00 PM

Join Lauren O’Neal and Chrissy Stroop (coeditors of Empty the Pews: Stories of Leaving the Church) for a panel discussion about making art and living life after leaving conservative Christianity, featuring Carmen Maria Machado (In the Dream House), Daniel Lavery (Something That May Shock and Discredit You), and Maud Newton (Ancestor Trouble).


About Empty the Pews :

Following the 2016 election of President Trump, Stroop coined the hashtag #EmptyThePews on Twitter as a call to take a moral stance against the kind of fundamentalist, authoritarian, or otherwise conservative churches that helped bring about the current political situation and all its cruelty, division, and hate. The hashtag continues to circulate with the eye-opening and often heartbreaking stories of those who found the resolve to leave evangelical, Mormon, Catholic, and other religious communities. Empty the Pews continues this campaign by sharing the unflinchingly honest stories of those who escaped hardline religious ideology—and how it failed to crush their spirits.

Contributions include essays from a diverse group of established and up-and-coming writers, including Garrard Conley, Lyz Lenz, Juliana Delgado Lopera, Carmen Maria Machado, Isaac Marion, Maud Newton, Julia Scheeres, Linda Tirado, and more, as well as a foreword by Frank Schaeffer, the former Christian Right leader turned trenchant critic.

A provocative anthology of undeniable importance and power, Empty the Pews reflects upon the disoriented worldview of harmful, narrow-minded religious ideologies and also offers a clear call to action: to those who refuse to be complicit in the bigotry and abuse present in so many churches, now is the time to empty the pews.


Copies of Empty the Pews are also available at our physical store and will be available for purchase at the event.

Thank you for supporting the Bureau by purchasing books from us!


This event will take place in person at the Bureau of General Services—Queer Division, on the second floor (room 210) of The LGBT Community Center, 208 W. 13th St., NYC, 10011.

Registration is not required. Seating is first come, first served.

Also live-streaming on the Bureau’s YouTube channel


Suggested donation $10 to benefit the Bureau’s work.

All are welcome to attend, with or without donation.

We will pass a bag for donations at the start of the event, but we can also take credit card donations at the register.


Safety protocol

In an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19:

If you have any symptoms associated with COVID-19 in the days leading up to the event, we ask you to please stay home.

Please note that masks are required at all times inside The LGBT Community Center, where the Bureau is located.


Daniel Lavery is the author of Texts From Jane Eyre and Something That May Shock and Discredit You, the co-founder of The Toast, and the former Dear Prudence at Slate.


Carmen Maria Machado is the author of the bestselling memoir In the Dream House and the award-winning short story collection Her Body and Other Parties. She has been a finalist for the National Book Award and the winner of the Bard Fiction Prize, the Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Fiction, and the National Book Critics Circle’s John Leonard Prize, among others. Her essays, fiction, and criticism have appeared in the New Yorker, The New York Times, Granta, Vogue, This American Life, The Believer, Guernica, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and has been awarded fellowships and residencies from the Guggenheim Foundation, Yaddo, Hedgebrook, and the Millay Colony for the Arts.


Maud Newton is a writer and critic. Her first book, Ancestor Trouble: A Reckoning and a Reconciliation (Random House, March 2022), has been called “a literary feat” by the New York Times Book Review and a “brilliant mix of personal memoir and cultural observation” by the Boston Globe. Excerpts from the book have appeared in Esquire, Time, and the Wall Street Journal. She has written for The New York Times Magazine, Harper’s, Oxford American, Harper’s Bazaar, and more. Maud grew up in Miami, lives in New York City, and has degrees in English and law.


Lauren O’Neal is a writer and editor in New York City. She is the coeditor, with Chrissy Stroop, of the essay anthology Empty the Pews: Stories of Leaving the Church, and the cohost of the podcast Sunday School Dropouts. Her writing has appeared in Slate, Nylon, and a bunch of websites that don’t exist anymore.


The coeditor (with Lauren O’Neal) of Empty the Pews: Stories of Leaving the Church, an anthology of personal essays by former conservative Christians, Chrissy Stroop was raised evangelical and subjected to intense indoctrination in Christian schools. Now a vocal critic of the Christian Right and an atheist, Stroop is a senior correspondent for Religion Dispatches and a columnist for openDemocracy. She holds a PhD in modern Russian history from Stanford University, and her work has also appeared in Foreign PolicyThe Boston Globe, Playboy, DAME MagazineAlternetThe Conversationalist, and other outlets, including peer-reviewed academic journals. An advocate for pluralist coexistence as an essential component of healthy democratic society, Stroop is proud of her record of working with both religious and secular organizations in pursuit of the common good. Stroop came out as a transgender woman in 2019 and currently resides in Portland, Oregon.



October 23, 2022
3:00 PM - 5:00 PM


Bureau of General Services—Queer Division
View Organizer Website


Bureau of General Services–Queer Division
208 West 13th Street, Room 210
New York, NY 10011 United States
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